In light of beauty salon closures in March, Broadsheet delivered a simple, step-by-step solution to a pressing problem: how to remove your gel or shellac manicure at home.
But weeks later, you might be getting a bit tired of your natural nails. And while salons are reopening – albeit with reduced capacities – we like the idea of taking nail maintenance into our own hands, for those times when can’t get to the salon for the full experience.
And because a spectacular shellac application begins with a great manicure, we’ve included tips on prepping your nails from Paris Kilpatrick, senior therapist at Melbourne day spa Miss Fox.
Here’s how to DIY your own shellac or gel polish at home.
You will need:
For the manicure:
• Nail file (100/180 grit is ideal)
• Nail buffer (a thick foam buffer with a soft grit)
• Gel or cream cuticle remover
• A metal cuticle pusher, or an orangewood stick
• Alcohol wipes (“Or cotton pads with vodka!”, says Kilpatrick)
• Cuticle oil (Kilpatrick uses Dadi Oil)
• Hand moisturiser (Kilpatrick uses Mukti Organics’ Botanique Lotion
• Glass of champagne (“Optional, but highly recommended”)
For the shellac/gel application:
• A gel starter kit like this one
• An LED nail lamp
• Base, colour, and top coat gel polishes (Shellac is a brand name, some others include Opallac, Gelish and OPI)
• Shine and soak solution like this one or alcohol wipes
Step one: set the scene
“Choose a well-lit area and lay down a towel or paper to protect your surfaces,” Kilpatrick says. “Pop on some uplifting music and incense or aromatherapy, pour a glass of Champagne – make it a spa experience.”
Step two: cuticle care, file and shape
Start with clean, unpolished nails. Apply cuticle softener to your cuticles, leave it on for a few minutes, then push back any dead skin with the orangewood stick.
“You may be tempted to trim off the excess cuticle, however this is often live skin that protects the nail plate, so it’s best left in place,” says Kilpatrick. “Dead cuticle will always be white and hard. This is the only thing you should be pushing or removing.”
Next, file and shape your nails. “For an easy way to assess whether your nails are evenly sized, bring your hands up in front of you and look at the underside of the nail. The nail edge should look even from finger to finger.”
Step three: prime time
Now it’s time to prepare your nails for a sleek, smooth gel finish.
“Buff the nails lightly with a soft block buffer, just enough to dull the very surface layer of the nail,” says Kilpatrick. “You can also use the buffer to remove any excess stubborn cuticle that was not removed earlier.”
If you feel your buffer is too sharp, Kilpatrick says you can run your nail file over its edges to help soften it.
Another great tip for recreating a professional manicure at home is to swipe alcohol over the nails before polishing.
“Use alcohol wipes to wipe the nails, removing any excess oil and dust. From here on, try to avoid touching anything (especially your hair or face) as it will put oil residue back onto the nail plate and reduce the longevity of your manicure.”
Step four: application hour
Apply a thin layer of base coat, then cure your nails by popping them under your LED lamp according to the directions on the bottle (usually 90–120 seconds).
Generally, you’ll get a better finish if you apply a thin layer – shellac and gel polish is already quite thick, and can cure incorrectly if you apply each layer too generously.
Kilpatrick has another great tip for applying your polish, to avoid ‘flooding’ your cuticles. “Drop the polish brush in the centre of the nail and push the polish up, rather than trying to drop the brush in the correct place near the cuticle. If you flood the nail or cuticle by mistake, use the orangewood stick or a cotton tip to clean things up.”
Repeat for two layers of your chosen colour, followed by one layer of top coat, curing again after each application.
“Apply a thin layer of top coat, ensuring you take it all the way to the edges of the nail, and wiping a small amount across the top edge of your nail to create a ‘cap’,” Kilpatrick says. “This helps secure the polish and extend its longevity.”
Step five: aftercare
After curing your top coat, most shellac and gel polishes will need a swipe of shine and soak solution, or alternatively you could use another alcohol wipe. This removes any sticky residue, and provides a sleek, smooth and shiny finish.
Once both hands are finished, apply a cuticle oil, followed by some hand cream.